The Scuola del Cuoio, or the Florentine Leather School, began after World War II, though the building it resides in has a rich history that goes back centuries. The building held friars for a while, and its old charm is quite evident in appearance. The teacher of Michelangelo painted a work of art on the wall in the school, serving as a testimony to the cultural and historical significance of the the leather school’s location. After World War II, many war orphans were struggling to survive in the streets of Florence, and the friars of Florence wanted to do something about it. They decided that if they taught the young war orphans the artistry of leather craftsmanship, then they could earn a stable living wage, and that’s how the Florentine Leather School began.
The Florentine Leather School has a variety of customers, from everyday tourists to visiting celebrities (like Matthew McConaughey) to the princes and princesses of the world to local Italians who crave good leather products. Customers can get products in a variety of ways, from visiting the leather school itself in Florence to visiting some of the Florentine Leather School’s location stores to shopping online and getting it shipped to wherever they are around the world.
Scuola del Cuoio’s primary products are leather goods. They have several types of skin to choose from: calf, lamb, cow, deer, alligator, python and ostrich. The skins also come in all sorts of colors from a natural beige to a bright blue. These skins are crafted into all sorts of products like jackets, purses, wallets, luggage, belts, bracelets, and much more.
Scull del Cuoio gets its leather skins from the best tanneries in Italy and if the skins are exotic the best tanneries around the world. The tanneries get their animals from local farmers. Because some animals like the alligator have been endangered, strict restrictions are placed on the buying process for the Leather School. They must buy all their endangered species’ skins from approved farms and have valid certifications for each skin they can show to the customer to ensure they are legally creating these products. One important aspect of the products is the gold plating detail, used with the finest 22 karat gold from right in Florence. The unused gold pieces are sent back to the gold plate manufacturer and are procured and reconstructed back into sheets which are then sent back to the Leather School and recycled for use again. After the products are made, they are either shipped to customers or sold at shops or the school itself in Florence.
The artisans of the Florentine Leather School are recruited from all over the world. They are taught the entire process of leather good creation before they can successfully leave the leather school and either continue their craft back home, another place, or stay at the school. Our guide today told us that she recently heard from one of her recent students that she just opened her own boutique in Hamburg, Germany!
Scuola del Cuoio has many competitors, but very few have a reputation as fine as Scuola’s. If customers are loyal enough to the brand, they will oversee the cheaper prices of other competitors for the famous leather craftsmanship that the Scuola provides. Since Italy is known for its leather, there will always be competitors for the Scuola, but that is not a huge problem for them, as they have a reputation of one of Italy’s finest leather goods manufacturers. Some challenges the Scuola have faced are changing their standards over time as environmental legislation takes order. For example, as I have mentioned, the Scuola must be careful about where they purchase their exotic skins and made sure that all requirements are kept for the skins of endangered species, otherwise their products will have to be destroyed. Despite this, the Scuola has many opportunities. Each of their young talent artisans compete in a bag designing and crafting competition every year, and the winner’s design gets to be a part of the Scuola’s collection. These contests keep designs new and fresh, allowing creativity to flow in the workplace. I appreciate how open the Florentine Leather School is to visitors. I think it is smart of them to hide nothing in their production process to create an excitement and appreciation from its customers for its products.
After we visited the Florentine Leather School, we went to a gallery with our tour guide Francesca and saw another beautiful Medici building. Paintings and frescoes from centuries ago covered every inch of the walls. After that we went to Boboli Gardens and saw the entire town of Florence where we took beautiful photos.